Coptic Orthodox Church confirms mob attack on Christians in Upper Egyptian village

Ahram Online , Thursday 26 May 2016

Christians' homes were burned and an elderly woman was stripped naked in public by a mob of Muslims angered by a rumoured affair between her son and a Muslim woman

Abu Qirqas church
A photo released on Thursday by Diocese of Minya and Abu Qirqas showing the old lady , who is a victim of the mob attack on Friday meeting with the Priests of the Diocese (Photo: Diocese of Minay and Abu Qirqas)

The Coptic Orthodox Coptic Church said in a statement on Wednesday that a mob attacked Christian homes in a village in Minya last Friday, and stripped an older Christian woman of her clothes during the assault.

"A group of 300 people carrying various types of weapons went at 8pm on 20 May to attack seven houses owned by Christians, burgling some of them and torching others," said the statement, estimating the financial losses at EGP 350,000.

"The attackers also stripped an old Christian woman of her clothes in front of a huge crowd in the street," read the statement, which was issued by the diocese of Minya and Abu Qirqas.

The sectarian attack in the village of El-Karm followed a rumour that a Muslim woman and a Christian man were involved in an affair, according to the statement.

The woman attacked and stripped naked was the accused man's mother, the statement added.

The incident was first reported on social media and by activists several days ago.

The Christian man who was the subject of the rumours has been forced to leave the village after receiving threats.

"His parents already filed a complaint at Abu Qirqas police station about receiving threats on 19 May and that they expected those threats to happen the next day," read the church's statement, adding that the man's family had reported the incident to the authorities.

According to the church, security forces reached the area at 10pm on Thursday, arresting six people who are under investigation.

"We trust that such behaviour is not accepted by any respectable person; we also trust that the state apparatuses won't stand by as a spectator and thus we thank in advance the security apparatuses as we believe it will all arrest all those involved and hold them accountable," read the church's statement. 

The governor of Minya, Tarek Nasr, however, denied in a TV interview with anchor Ahmed Moussa on Sada El-Balad Wednesday night that the woman was stripped naked, describing the whole incident as a "regular" fight. Nasr also blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for “exploiting” the incident and spreading rumours.

The governor confirmed that the sectarian tension in the village was caused by a rumour about a Christian man having an affair with a Muslim woman, adding that questions of love affairs and honour in Upper Egypt are usually "sensitive" issues.

"Some irrational youth threw flammable missiles at the houses of Christians in the village and some women ran away in their nightgowns," Nasser said denying that an a older was stripped naked and insisting that the matter has been resolved.

Similar sectarian-motivated attacks on Christians have taken place in Minya and other parts of Egypt in the past several years.

Many social media users reacted angrily to the news of the incident, with some launching a hashtag in Arabic which reads “Egypt is stripped naked.”

Social media users demanded legal action from the authorities, criticising the government's reliance on customary conflict resolution and reconciliation assemblies which are regularly held by religious and community leaders to resolve sectarian tensions among Muslims and Christians in an extra-legal manner in Egyptian villages.

These sessions have often been criticised by both Muslims and Christians for being an inadequate, informal means of resolving conflicts that require government intervention. 

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